The apparent end of public education as we know it in Philadelphia

We’ve talked at length on this site, over the past several years, about the coordinated campaign to dismantle public education in the United States. Sadly, Michigan is often at the forefront of this national conservative movement. Images of pregnant teenage girls being arrested as they try to keep their schools from closing and boys picketing outside of their struggling schools, demanding an education have become commonplace, as once vibrant neighborhood schools are being forced to close, and those that remain transition from places of learning to places where children who can’t afford private education are essentially warehoused during the daylight hours, filling out worksheets in overcrowded classrooms, as massively overworked teachers are kept busy attending to the inevitable discipline problems that arise. Today, however, the story that caught my attention wasn’t from Michigan. It’s from Philadelphia… Following is a clip from the Philadelphia City Paper.

Philadelphia public schools are on the operating table, reeling from a knockout blow of heavy state budget cuts. It was too much to bear after decades of underfunding and mismanagement at the hands of shortsighted Philadelphians and mean-spirited politicians in Harrisburg.

So the District is today announcing that it’s going to call it quits. Its organs will be harvested, in search of a relatively vital host.

“Philadelphia public schools is not the School District,” Chief Recovery Officer Thomas Knudsen told a handful of reporters at yesterday’s press conference laying out the five-year plan proposed to the School Reform Commission. “There’s a redefinition, and we’ll get to that later.”

He got to it: talk about “modernization,” “right-sizing,” “entrepreneurialism” and “competition.”

Forty schools would close next year, and six additional schools would be closed every year thereafter until 2017. Closing just eight schools this year prompted an uproar.

Anyhow, the remaining schools would get chopped up into “achievement networks” where public or private groups compete to manage about 25 schools, and the central office would be chopped down to a skeleton crew of about 200. District HQ has already eliminated about half of the 1,100-plus positions that existed in 2010.

This is all aimed at closing a $218 million deficit for the coming year, part of a $1.1 billion cumulative deficit by 2017. Charter schools will teach an estimated 40 percent of students by 2017…

But, it’s imperative, we’re told, that the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy remain in place. Otherwise, we might jeopardize our recovery, and the future of America, right?

I don’t want to go off on a conspiratorial tangent, but I think it’s worth considering that none of this is an accident. It’s quite possible, I think, that the Bush tax cuts, which were extended under the Obama administration, were never solely about allowing those with the most power in America to keep an unprecedented amount of their accumulated wealth. I think an argument could be made that these tax cuts were more about, in the words of conservative operative Grover Norquist, “starving” the U.S. government to the point that social programs, like public education, would be forced to collapse. Norquist, as you’ll recall, was quoted once as saying he wanted to shrink government, “down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” (I also like this quote, “My ideal citizen is the self-employed, homeschooling, IRA-owning guy with a concealed-carry permit. Because that person doesn’t need the goddamn government for anything,” but we’ll have to save that for another day.) And, I think that’s what we’re seeing play out right now in Philadelphia. We’re standing by, passively watching, as public education being drowned in the bathtub.

While we’re on the subject of Philadelphia’s public schools, I also wanted to pass along the following clip from the Black Agenda Report, which is one of the few news sources I could find online today covering this story. (Good Morning America, while it didn’t cover this story, had a great segment on a cow that visited a McDonald’s drive-through. They also had an incredibly insightful piece on a cat that’s so cute that people wonder if it’s animatronic.) Here’s the clip, in which the author speculates as to why black civil rights leaders seem to be silent on the wholesale dismantling of public education in Philadelphia.

…The black political class is utterly silent and deeply complicit. Even local pols and notables who lament the injustice of local austerity avoid mentioning the ongoing wars and bailouts which make these things “necessary.” A string of black mayors have overseen the decimation of Philly schools. Al Sharpton, Ben Jealous and other traditional “civil rights leaders” can always be counted on to rise up indignant when some racist clown makes an inappropriate remark about the pretty black First Lady and her children.

But they won’t grab the mic for ordinary black children. They won’t start and won’t engage the public in a conversation about saving public education. It’s not because they don’t care. It’s because they care very much about their funding, which comes from Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation, from Wal-mart and the Walton Family Foundation, from the corporations that run charter charter schools and produce standardized tests.

To name just one payment to one figure, Rev. Al Sharpton took a half million dollar “loan” from charter school advocates in New York City, after which he went on tour with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Newt Gingrich extolling the virtues of standardized testing, charter schools and educational privatization. Bill Gates delivered the keynote speech at the latest gathering of the National Urban League. And the nation’s two big teachers’ unions, NEA and AFT have already endorsed Barack Obama’s re-election, and will funnel him gobs of union dues as campaign contributions, despite his corporate-inspired “Race To The Top” program which awards federal education funds in proportion to how many teachers are fired and replaced by inexperienced temps, how many schools are shut down, and how many charter schools exempt from meaningful public oversight are established and granted public funds…

So, we’ll all stand by and watch this happen. We’ll all watch as teaching ceases to be profession that can support a family, a generation of kids loses the chance at a better life that education provides, and for-profit companies, who are accountable only to their shareholders, swoop in to extract what little money there is left. It may not be registering in your brain yet, but we’re watching the country that our ancestors gave their lives for be dragged to the bathtub and killed. And we’re all complicit.

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  1. Posted April 25, 2012 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    Wish I had some solutions to offer. We can only hope that local communities will stand up for education by approving millages, to at least help with special ed, technology and other services. Btw, did you hear that the Flint EM voided all the contracts tonight?

  2. Posted April 25, 2012 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    Here is the link:

    Snyder and his ilk must be wetting themselves with glee.

  3. Jiggs
    Posted April 26, 2012 at 2:07 am | Permalink

    “… ‘starving’ the U.S. government to the point that social programs, like public education, would be forced to collapse.”

    It is happening. I’ve said it before. The same “company” that owns the schools will also own the “local” police force … and they will also own the prisons. Think about it. A friend of mine said, when I presented this: “That’s terrifying.”

    And so it begins.

  4. Eel
    Posted April 26, 2012 at 6:25 am | Permalink

    I was raised in a household that preached nonviolence, but I really feel like punching someone in the face right now.

  5. Anonymous Mike
    Posted April 26, 2012 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    Conservatives are so big on the rights of individuals to carry weapons, I wonder what they’d make of a campaign to arm the 18 year olds of Philadelphia? I’m generally not inclined to support wider dissemination of deadly weapons, but I suspect that people would take these young inner city men and women more seriously if they were exercising their right to carry guns.

  6. Thom Elliott
    Posted April 26, 2012 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    I’m reeling from the sickness of this world. Debased humanity that reigns over a pathological society, grinding its own boot into its face. The spreading nothingness won’t stop, the gods have flown away from us. The triumph of modernity over life; the avowed creedo of millions of blind lunatics. The time is ripe to awaken philosophy, only the sickest societies give birth to proper philosophers, the nihilism of modernity will only play out, there is nothing that can be done to stop its Pyrric victory. We can only make the personal turn away from nihilism & the metaphysics of modernity, be released into waiting upon the mystery of being, a thinking which is not a willing, entering into the truth of being.

  7. EOS
    Posted April 26, 2012 at 8:16 am | Permalink


    There is no need for a campaign. 18 year olds are armed in Philadelphia and many are members of gangs and compete for drug sales. In Dec 2010, the police commissioner announced that Philadelphia has the highest rate of gun violence among major cities in the United States.

  8. Meta
    Posted April 26, 2012 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    In related news:

    House Republicans recently proposed cuts to nutrition assistance that will kick 280,000 low-income children off automatic enrollment in the Free School Lunch and Breakfast Program. Those same kids and 1.5 million other people will also lose their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly food stamp benefits) that help them afford food at home.

    Ten years’ worth of these nutrition cuts could be prevented for the price of one year of tax cuts on 3,340 multimillion dollar estates that House Republicans are protecting in their budget.

    On April 18 the House Agriculture Committee passed a bill cutting over $33 billion from SNAP over the next decade. About one-third of these cuts ($11.5 billion) comes from putting restrictions on “categorical eligibility,” a provision that enables states to better coordinate between programs and improves access to assistance for low-income families.

    By restricting this provision, the bill would kick an average of 1.8 million low-income people a year off of food aid and end automatic enrollment in free school meals for 280,000 children in struggling families.

    The Republican budget sells this bill as an effort to “reduce lower‐priority spending” to avert military cuts that will otherwise take place in January 2013 due to the debt deal agreed to last summer. But when it comes to reducing the deficit, it’s clear the House would rather ask low-income kids and families struggling against hunger to foot the bill than asking multimillion-dollar estates to pay their fair share.

    Case in point: As part of the 2010 tax-cut compromise, House Republicans insisted on including a tax cut on multimillion dollar estates, adding an estimated $11.5 billion to the deficit this year alone. That’s the same amount they’re now claiming is necessary to cut from low-income families through these restrictions.

    Read more:

  9. Anonymous Mike
    Posted April 26, 2012 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    That’s encouraging, EOS. Now we just need to help them aim in the right direction.

  10. Tommy
    Posted April 26, 2012 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Dear Giant Asteroid:

    Please crash into our planet soon. It is the only chance we have to reset this mess and start over again. God (or God Jr. – I’m not sure who is actually in charge at this point) knows the coordinates.


    One very feeble Earthling

  11. TeacherPatti
    Posted April 26, 2012 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    I was thinking about this as I drove to school this morning. I have a few suggestions on how to make things better, but none of them seem terribly awesome or likely:

    1) Some super charismatic left-wing person who somehow rises up and gets people making $10,000/year to understand that the Republicans don’t give a good goddamn fuck about them (or hell, under $100,000/year for that matter)

    2) The entire safety net to be yanked away such that we go back to pre 1930s or so, with insane asylums, poor houses, kids roaming around selling little homemade newspapers, no Medicaid/Medicare, everyone for him/herself

    3) God or Moses or whomever to come on down and bitchslap the whole lot of these motherfuckers. I’m actually hoping for this one because I have a few questions to ask God and I’m sure He’d be delighted to chat with me.

    Anything else?

  12. Knox
    Posted April 26, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    I’m hesitant to embrace the rhetoric of violent revolution, but I’m starting to think that maybe we should begin treating these people like the blood-sucking monsters that they are, and removing their heads.

  13. mark k
    Posted April 26, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    Thats the nice thing about not being dependant on others, the rug can’t be pulled out from under you. Or you could become more and more dependant on the Gov’t and become their slave. Which route will you choose?

  14. mark k
    Posted April 26, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Knox thats pretty big talk. But are you man enough? I’m guessing not.

  15. Posted April 26, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    EOS hates the idea of young black men with guns. Actually, EOS just hates the idea of black people.

  16. dirtgrain
    Posted April 26, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    Maybe all of the “starved” cities and towns could coordinate declaring bankruptcy at the same time. What would happen if we did that? Would there be a bailout? Would we crash the market otherwise?

    Billy Ray Valentine: “It seems to me that the best way to hurt rich people is by making them poor.”

    Yep. What other things could be done to threaten the wealth of the rich to the point that they feared our actions more than a revocation of the Bush/Obama tax cuts? A national strike?

    Can we show Americans how the standard of living for most of us is going down, down, down, while the wealth of the rich is going up, up, up? With advertising campaigns? Fight the glittering generalities like “choice,” “competition,” “tough choices” with counter terms? Would we have to be as sneaky and slimy as ALEC and the Mackinac Center and the Koch brothers and the rest of them (including the complicit Democrat politicians and their groups and supporters)?

  17. mark k
    Posted April 26, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    “Can we show Americans how the standard of living for most of us is going down”

    You mean like how you Democrats showed Detroit? The fact is if you work hard in life you’ll get what you want out of it. If you don’t work hard and drop out of school, you will be Obama’s slave. dirtgrain go ahead and show us how bad the Democrats can make it, most of us already know but I’ll leave it up to you to show the rest. I know I’m doing my part to show people what you are up to.

  18. kjc
    Posted April 26, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    “You mean like how you Democrats showed Detroit? The fact is if you work hard in life you’ll get what you want out of it. If you don’t work hard and drop out of school, you will be Obama’s slave. dirtgrain go ahead and show us how bad the Democrats can make it, most of us already know but I’ll leave it up to you to show the rest. I know I’m doing my part to show people what you are up to.”

    with all due respect Mark K. ,what the fuck are you talking about?

  19. EOS
    Posted April 27, 2012 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    Sorry Peter – your Saul Alinsky tactics are too transparent for efficacy. You might try reasoned argument for a change. Or is that setting the bar too high for you?

  20. Posted April 27, 2012 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    It is good to know that in Mark K’s life, the most important thing is partisanship. Me and my Republicans are right, and those that don’t agree with me caused all the messes and if you don’t agree with me, your just a slave.

    “The fact is if you work hard in life you’ll get what you want out of it”

    the Nazi slogan was “Work will set you free”

    In both cases, it is the “idea” or the “myth” that is most important. Reality is secondary to the reactionary mind. As I believe George W. stated,” we create our own reality”.

    so be a good little worker bee, and let our queen bees be.

  21. anonymous
    Posted April 27, 2012 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    I feel bad for Mark K. I can sense how desperately he wants to use the “N” word when discussing what “the people of Detroit” have done to their city. I wish we lived in a community where he could express himself freely, without fear of retribution. Hopefully, some day, we’ll get there.

  22. Dan
    Posted April 27, 2012 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    Do you guys ever wonder why you attack EOS and mark k and Brackinald et al. personally? As opposed to attacking their posts and comments?

  23. Tom
    Posted April 27, 2012 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Since Knox already let the cat out of the bag, I’m putting my weight behind a future revolution. And not the sort of conservative revolution EOS and Mark K might envision – some kind of forced separation of families and neighbors into mutually aggressive paranoiacs. Actually, in my view that’s a pretty clear counter-revolution, and a dystopian desert of terror.

    And yes, Mark K, I am “man enough” to support masses of the oppressed rising up against the ruling elite (sorry … ‘the hardest working people’). When the days come, I’ll be standing right behind the black folks who you shower with all the blame for society’s problems. In fact, I’ll probably see plenty of women there, who are also “man enough” to step up to your rich white man’s inhumane agenda.

    As for EOS, I’m guessing the idiot never knew mayoral politics is corrupt pretty much everywhere. Who wants to guess whether or not he ever made a peep about Dearborn’s longtime mayor Orville Hubbard, who colluded with business leaders to keep the city as segregated as possible for decades. And right out in the open – do you think that was an isolated case?

  24. EOS
    Posted April 27, 2012 at 10:43 am | Permalink


    Where did I ever make any comments about revolution, or blaming blacks, or mayoral politics? Dan is right. Few people respond on topic to what I write.

  25. kjc
    Posted April 27, 2012 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    ‘Do you guys ever wonder why you attack EOS and mark k and Brackinald et al. personally? As opposed to attacking their posts and comments?’

    this point of view was discussed at the last mtg of the Martyrs Club. minutes posted at

    leave poor BA out of it. he’s not around to defend himself. and he could produce an argument.

  26. mark k
    Posted April 27, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    “I feel bad for Mark K. I can sense how desperately he wants to use the “N” word ” Did the voices in your head tell you that? Calling someone racist is so old and worn out. And you feel bad for me?

  27. mark k
    Posted April 27, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    “Do you guys ever wonder why you attack EOS and mark k and Brackinald et al. personally? As opposed to attacking their posts and comments?”
    Oh snap!

  28. mark k
    Posted April 27, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    anonymous just so you know I don’t believe for a second what happened to Detroit is the fault of Black Folks, the blame belongs 100% to the Democrats. Helping people is to make them independant, not giving them stuff, that my friend is control and slavery.

  29. kjc
    Posted April 27, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    “I don’t believe for a second what happened to Detroit is the fault of Black Folks, the blame belongs 100% to the Democrats.”

    i’m so glad you admitted that so i don’t have to take you seriously. ok, i wasn’t anyway but still.

    BA come back and defend your honor! you’re being slanderously grouped.

  30. anonymous
    Posted April 27, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    I continue to feel sorry for you, Mr. K. You should live in a world where political correctness doesn’t dictate what can and can’t be said. I’m on your side. I think you should be able to use the n-word, and do so proudly, without fear of retribution from terrifying, unarmed liberal do-gooders. And I don’t think that you’re a racist. For all I know, you have a photo of Herman Cain on your desk, which proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you’re not a racist.

  31. Dan
    Posted April 27, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    FYI anonymous,

    when you can not talk intelligently about the subject matter, attacking someone personally and avoiding the subject matter doesn’t hide your ignorance. It’s plain for all of us to see.

    Calling someone a racist repeatedly because you can’t debate his point means you’ve lost the debate.

  32. EOS
    Posted April 27, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    Political correctness doesn’t dictate what can or can’t be said. It’s a shame someone has convinced you otherwise.

  33. Posted April 28, 2012 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    some comments from a local luminary on Ypsilanti and May Day

  34. Alan
    Posted October 13, 2013 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

    How smart to do you have to be to grill cheesesteaks and sell Rocky tshirts?

4 Trackbacks

  1. […] […]

  2. […] […]

  3. […] public education, and the role of black leadersBy Mark | May 23, 2012A few weeks ago, in post about the complete dismantling of public education as we know it in Philadelphia, I quoted a publication called the Black Agenda Report. The article that I’d excerpted, as […]

  4. […] next yearBy Mark | May 29, 2012As you’ll recall, a few weeks ago, I mentioned here that the Philadelphia School District had been disbanded. Well, it looks as though Michigan may have just one-upped them, eliminating public education […]

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